On February 14th, a panel discussion was held at Kyoto Seika University centered on S.U.C.C. students with Visiting Professor Hiroshi Fujiwara. A total of nine people took part, with Takashi Kōshima also a part-time lecturer at Kyoto Seika University serving as moderator, and two students facing the wonderful line-up of VERBAL, Daisuke Gemma, Tatsuya Suzuki, Noriko Nakazato, and Takashi Masada. Themed “The Evolution of Technology, The Future of Music and Fashion”, the conversation asked what it means to be creative as technology evolves. How should art direction and creativity adapt and move on?
Photo & Text: Shoichi Kajino
Hiroshi Fujiwara (Head of Fragment Design / Visiting Professor, Kyoto Seika University Faculty of Popular Culture)
Daisuke Gemma (Creative Director)
Tatsuya Suzuki (Creative Director / Former Editor-in-Chief, honeyee.com)
VERBAL (Artist, AMBUSH® Creative Director, m-flo, PKCZ®、HONEST BOYZ®)
Noriko Nakazato (Fashion Designer / PhD candidate, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music)
Takeshi Masada (Painter / Part-time lecturer, Kyoto Seika University Faculty of Popular Culture)
Saki Imada (Enrolled at Kyoto Seika University Faculty of Popular Culture ＊S.U.C.C. member)
Ryusei Maeda (Illustrator / Volley Boyz ＊S.U.C.C. member)
1. How should art direction and creativity survive?
Hiroshi Fujiwara — Recently I’ve been thinking what an evolution of technology means, but one thing often said is that it’s making things smaller or concentrating function into a single thing. For example, like when the telephone has gone from being a mobile phone to a smartphone. I think the example of music is easiest to understand. At one time everyone got together and listened in the open, then the jacket sleeve reached the home and went inside as a 12 inch vinyl record. Next the record became the 12 cm compact disc, artwork got smaller, and now it’s become digital with music only coming from the cloud. It certainly become more convenient thanks to technology, and think it became possible to enjoy music in a variety of ways and places. But, to view it in terms of disappearing vinyl and artwork, I think for the first time both have taken a step backward. And feel fashion also faces a similar situation, not only music. So I think we can talk about the different ways technology connects with creativity today.
Takashi Kōshima — To grasp the idea of vinyl as technology is interesting. But what about fashion?
Noriko Nakazato — Even if it is possible to make something new with “evolving technology”, from the phrase itself it also feels slightly old. It’s just progress but also feels old and geeky. Like a science museum’s Plasma Ball.
Tetsuya Suzuki — There was a time when ‘technology’ meant a fantastic future. I guess the reflection of life living with technology as being fantastic is what drew it to science fiction cinema and anime. But I think life now is moving forward in a direction different from that fantasy. I supposed technology has developed more rationally and more efficiently. Because how music is distributed has become the main focus and no more packaging, and the creativity that came from there has long since gone, so it could be said that it’s convenient but not necessarily creative. Within that, I wonder if the theme of today’s discussion is how will making things survive something like that.
Daisuke Gemma — I think choice is the one thing that will increase in terms of how the evolution of technology. I’m not so sure that something new is necessarily best. I’m trying to create thread from protein, but aimed at real baby cashmere for thread texture. For example, I really hate the MP3 format because it seemed like a moment when business won over creativity.
Fujiwara — But you’ve loads of MP3 songs on your iPhone, right?
Gemma — No, they’re uncompressed WAV’s (lol) I mean, Creativity will always want to win even when the odds are seriously stacked against it.
Takeshi Masada — Dragon Quest 3 was cutting edge when I was a child. The reason for the rough pixels of computer games back then was the screen, but seeing Akira Toriyama’s illustrations on software packaging, to my mind complimented the game and enjoyed it. But now anything and everything is way too visible and missing the room for one’s own “imagination” to enter.
Fujiwara — I thought it amazing that snowboards were fitted with Bluetooth, but, in fact, it gets in the way of fashion and got left behind as technology evolved. After 10 years it becomes obsolete, even if it’s interesting. Gadgets and fashion don’t go together.
Gemma — Human sensibility is not that much different, right?
VERBAL — For instance, how about shirts that never turn black all around the collar and seem to whiten instantly even if they’re split with ketchup?
Fujiwara — Some people prefer a clean shirt but aren’t there some that also want to were old clothes that are dirty? There, rather than replace everything with technology, it makes sense try and capture that as a single item.
VERBAL — Once you can develop a shirt that never gets dirty forever, it can be ordered at somewhere like a certain menswear shop, but it seems like it’s a business already.
Fujiwara — But once only, right? Since, no-one need buy a new shirt (lol)
Suzuki — It’s not dirty, but should fall apart soon (lol)
Kōshima — Edison, right? He designed the light bulb to turn off …
Fujiwara — Nakazato, if there was a fabric that stays clean, as a designer would you use it?
Nakazato — It doesn’t appeal to me that much. It often feels like the means and purpose are reversed when technology is used in fashion. Personally, it’s interesting as an creation but seems sophisticated in a meaningless way.
Fujiwara — There maybe people that want a shirt that never gets dirty as a lifestyle choice, but we want to wear a 50 year-old leather jacket sometimes and would be happy wearing even if what’s made from now on is dirty in 50 years time. Such a place feels like a fantasy and maybe old fashioned, but isn’t that the role of a creative director?
Gemma — In a sense, what I am doing (at sacai) is also old. I think most people, Paris Fashion Week doesn’t really matter. But I pour all my energy into it to the point of exhaustion, and that’s out life. I sometimes think it can be done separately from technology when I think the fantasy makes people happy.
Suzuki — Even if you don’t think it’s beautiful or cool, the latest technology is a daily convenience not fashion, no matter how much you use it, right? I think it necessary to understand the point where technology and fashion can coexist. What do designers or creative directors think about that? For example, even though the thing being made is itself analogue, the use of technology in e-commerce has become an active part of communicating with the customer.
Gemma — Some fashion designers don’t like to use new technology, but would like to use digital media as a method of promotion. I want to be able to have a choice and choose correctly. I think we are doing is nothing new, but try not to react by rejecting new things.
2. Light when too Bright
Fujiwara — By the way, we’ve seen change in the evolution of technology and society, but for two students who’ve both been brought up with smartphones from a very young age, I wonder if both feel the same way?
Ryusei Maeda — Let me think. On the contrary, in a way analogue feels newer. I feel like records and cassettes now seem completely different compared with your generation.
Fujiwara — Not just records … vinyl being one choice that’s available, right?
VERBAL — Wasn’t curating the record itself once upon a time part of the storytelling process? I bought a record by Led Zeppelin just by looking at the record sleeve. Actually, if your play it in reverse, it’s like the voice of the devil chanting has become something of a romantic urban legend. But, people who grew up after the MP3 are different in how they listen. The way they ‘curate’ music is also becoming more and more advanced in many different ways. I post to Instagram almost everyday now.
Maeda — Yes, I’m in a band too, but I think updating social media is absolutely necessary.
Fujiwara — Imada, do you sometimes think, “I want to buy this” when looking at clothes on Instagram, for example? Our generation took so much information from a single magazine photo, being drawn to posters behind and not only picturing the shoes, but do you still get this kind of feeling?
Saki Imada — Instagram is an endless scroll of images, right. Though some that briefly ring a bell are different from the others, I am also thinking that both may be they have another side that’s just decoration perhaps and can’t be trusted. a first look of Maison Margiela’s show the other day, and coat colour changed when flash bulbs went off, though it was joke-like. To me, that light-weight look is cool. Since I think that part has been overblown on social media, the lighter one feels cooler.
Nakazato — I wonder if it being a sort of joke is a generational aesthetic? That sort of generation, something like net culture, can empathize with the idyllic blue sky and green meadows that fill a Windows desktop. It’s cute as opposed to being feeling featureless and nondescript.
Fujiwara — I think I understand what you mean. It really made us feel nostalgic over here, but that doesn’t mean what you said was ridiculous, okay. (lol)
3. Evolving stories
Fujiwara — Some people are open-minded towards new things, but some are not. When I talked to Masada about this, it was fun talking about the painters when the technology of photography first appeared.
Masada — Oil paints in medieval times were also a technology. The photograph was born in the 19th Century after that. The camera obscura (the earliest form of camera, used to get projected images for painting, mostly) was developed as a result during the Renaissance, but the invention of exposable media wasn’t until the 19th Century. The painting was replaced with the image from then on. Painters anxiously began to reconsider what makes a picture. With that, the Impressionist’s began as if to rebel against neoclassicism, which I think is what that texture or blotchiness is about. I couldn’t actually feel the attraction of Impressionism until I saw the real thing, but I saw a lot at the National Gallery in London and felt energised by rediscovering painting, or rather, the impatience of painters back then.
Fujiwara — It makes me feel like I’m under pressure and working hard when a new technology such as this is introduced and photos comes out. Maybe it’s a repeat of this sort of thing.
Gemma — To put it another way, it’s flattering being copied in fashion. I think fast-fashion happens if what we’re doing is also being sold for a tenth of the price. It’s important to work hard, although I won’t deny at all there are people who have different goals in life. That doesn’t mean they’re without purpose but I need to fight when I am working.
VERBAL — Now anyone can learn how to use equipment in a couple of hours, but in the end taste or a musician’s story will be the difference, I guess. Someone doesn’t become the best at what they do by assuming they’re really good at how they make things.
Kōshima — I think that sort of thing is obvious, but I think it safe to say, it’s really got me thinking about the evolution of technology once again.
Suzuki — I think now is a time when branding is more important. All sorts of information is out there, but, in the end, original large brands are becoming stronger and stronger. It’s a situation that’s hard to get a foothold in for young new brands. The bigger ones become stronger because they also have resources and history, not only capital strength, so I can buy with confidence. Therefore—although this is getting away from the conversation—the resale price at a site like Mercari doesn’t fall because the information they have is so strong.
Gemma — Like you say, I guess it’s hard place more than ever for a young designer to debut. On the other hand, the bigger a big brands becomes the fewer people there are that want to express themselves wearing clothes. Even though people like us are doing smaller things, I think we have a chance to realize them.
Fujiwara — At a glance, it seems possible to participate in media as an individual, when it’s opposite.
VERBAL — It felt really romantic when someone started making their own t-shirts at a time when no-one was making them by themselves, as if, “What? You’re making t-shirts on your own?” It’s like the ‘boot’ sensation? I’m talking about the interview I listened to the other day on Hypebeast Radio, Hiroshi …
Fujiwara — Is it okay to talk about that here? I don’t remember what I said (lol)
VERBAL — (lol) It was a nice story not heard that often (about the sacai and Fragment Design collaboration, ‘sacai not sacai’). The story is, since sacai doesn’t make t-shirts to start with, they decided to make them with a different body not made in a sacai style, and only 20 were made with a ‘boot’ sense. It’s not Fragment and not sacai either, but there is a story and a coolness there, not a material but a brand coming into existence, no?
Fujiwara — When we began (making t-shirt ourselves), there were only DC (designer character) brands such as Men’s Bigi and couldn’t imagine making them by myself, that is why I thought it funny and cool. Then after a while, I think (Hiroki) Nakamura of Visvim began to say he wanted to make his own shoes. For a while I wondered, is it really possible to makes shoes by myself, but he managed to do it. Although I’ve witnessed someone starting from scratch becoming a major player, I wonder if there is such an opening like this in the future in fashion?
Gemma — I definitely think there is an opening in itself. Is it not doing things that counter what was common back then? A large part may be to do with whether or not being anxious helps or hinders the counterpunch to that.
Fujiwara — I didn’t imagine making shoes privately could be turned into a business back then, and wonder if it was now should I just make a car by myself?
Gemma — Hiroshi’s ‘sacai not sacai’ surprised even us. When I asked if they can do it, although they had the body, it was done already. I thought, “this feels perfect!” Up until then I was just wondered what kind of tee would you make with that kind of thread? I thought, winning people come up with ideas and if I was struck with a similar idea I can do it too.
4. A Creative Community
Nakazato — In terms of how a young designer will grow, I wonder whether it’s important to build the system for a brand as well as having a world view. For example, I used VR to publish my collection, but instead of showing clothes took an island cruise by boat as the stage and way of presenting the collection. In order to sell clothes at that time, people that visited the room peeped through binoculars at the building opposite, and thought that in the background maybe something like buying clothes might be okay. If you think about it, the story tends to nearly always come beforehand but how to make that system work is very difficult.
Suzuki — It’s a conceptual art approach, but, for Nakazato, designed as a place to sell.
Fujiwara — We say we want to do everything ourselves, but really it’s the current generation that can do it. Chitose Abe of sacai is the same generation, but the designer way of doing, to design, is the role of the designer. I guess that is why it’s necessary to have a creative designer.
Gemma — Because Abe is also the owner he is also looking at it as a business, although designed product design is the basis of a way of pushing the company forward. For example, I think how to sell at a percentage of wholesale to retail is also one of things included in a role that a creative designer does that other people don’t do. If a creative director is not working in all directions, I think it’s quite hard to move to the next level.
Fujiwara — I think sacai is a tradition type of company and roles are evenly distributed. I wonder, Nakazato, you’re not the type would think of doing something like that alone.
Nakazato — No, I feel it’s important to make a team. For instance, there gave been occasions where if I there’s a photographer I like and send them a message on social media they would reply. By experience, if I step outside I finding a circle of comrades, and wonder if I am putting together my own team from now on. It’s like ‘One Piece’. I want a gang of my own (lol)
Fujiwara — That’s kind of unexpected. I look like I don’t want a gang. (lol) You seem like the type of person that confronts things by yourself.
Suzuki — The things Nakazato is making feel more like a piece of work than a product. Like for Gemma, sacai is making products, right? No matter how high the creativity.
Gemma — That’s right. I’m making products. I think it was Rei Kawakubo (Comme des Garçons) who said fashion is a business. Making unsellable things cannot be our philosophy, as cool as that sounds.
Fujiwara — The image I have is you can form a team to begin with but it’s more important for someone solo to be strong and firm rather than an artist, designer, and musician. It’s better to have someone who understands what makes you tick rather than a colleague.
Suzuki — Maybe colleague is the wrong word. When I think of someone called ‘colleague’ I imagine you have to do things together, but instead, I guess it’s like this person with this project.
Nakazato — Since what I can do alone is limited, and what I can’t do, I can’t do, I also think it important not give in.
5. Editing and Media after the Social Network
Kōshima — I think around the time when Honeyee began, the blog was nothing more than text-based. And finally the blog began competing with the likes of Instagram. Suzuki, will you tell us the story around this?
Suzuki — The world of text-based web has become a visual one. The story is that such a period is a few years have passed since the rise of Honeyee. I guess earlier media didn’t have the same kind of influence. Because we choose what information to send based on the platform. But now that information flow has flattened. Instagram can make a follower without permission, which will appear as numbers. If such people are said to be real, they’re certainly real. What is chosen will be filtered out somewhere by the editor themselves. When flat communication between individuals becomes the main part of the web, following someone you think interesting or who has good information, it’s impossible keeping up with information the editorial department gathers, edits, and updates. It has become meaningless. And sponsors also began to notice.
Fujiwara — I always keep classes up-to-date by picking a topic from the newspaper, but there was one article about a certain major company reviewing whether or not to quit advertising on social media. There are cases where a sponsor steps down when there has been an indiscretion on television, right? Facebook and Instagram are full of indiscretion, so it seems leading companies have started to consider whether it’s okay to advertise there.
VERBAL — I think there are algorithms that don’t run adverts on unethical pages. I think the situation also alters if they know a user’s tastes, even if that seems impossible to achieve.
Fujiwara — I think so. I wonder what it is about them, but there are places that can’t go against the current flow.
Suzuki — The media has sent out messages to a large number of partners but are tailored specifically for individual users from now on, right. For Verbal, that sort of information seems aimed at Nakazato. The accuracy of that specific tailoring will steadily improve. The way content is made is also changing like this.
Gemma — I think once you say it’s not only design we are doing but editing work as well, everything in life is editing. If there is something unethical in advertising, I think editing is required to remove it.
Fujiwara — Everyone, please make a note of today’s key phrase, “Everything in life is Editing”. When you said a thing like that, I would have thought it time to draw things to a close.
6. Loosing Creatives to AI
Kōshima — Before AI systems gain power, how do you think music and fashion will go together with technology?
VERBAL — When I make something, I want to see it through from beginning to end, but can’t do everything myself. As AI develops in the future, I want to create and environment where I can concentrate on creative things and leave stuff that anyone can do up to technology. I hope the work I entrust is simple because I want to spend time digging through records and turning up old clothes.
Nakazato — I heard someone earlier say that in the end, to choose might not be possible, even if an AI is capable of doing different things. When I was thinking about beauty (impossible for an AI to appreciate) I had thought there was an elegance toward useless things that was amazing. The sense that something missing was born and in some way combined with things like richness and transience feels tremendously important.
Fujiwara — I thought an AI could win no matter what. Yet, I don’t think proposing those systems can go any further if they’re considered “lame” somehow. More than anything, wanting to link-up with this is important for fashion. Having a small amount of disorganisation is important, regardless of how efficiently an AI makes comfortable clothes.
Gemma — Well, life is about editing. (lol) And in the end, the choice is with people so even if a mistake is made there it’s fine. There have only been a few people up until now who were truly cool and we want to be doing cool things with those cool people.
Suzuki — AI won’t succeed as long as people have the capacity to think of things as cool and beautiful, but there may come a time when comfort and convenience fall away. When it’s said that “fashion is just such a waste”, don’t you loose the argument just by saying “that’s not true”? Therefore, it may be necessary for a way to make people understand what being attractive, beautiful, and euphoric is beyond convenience and something wasteful.
Fujiwara — Although we feel comfortable being small, large companies are selling huge amounts in the hope that it is fashion. But I guess that’s expecting quite a lot, right? Because the bigger they gets the more boring they become. A large figure is confused with what should be little.
Kōshima — If there’s no ‘Like’ mark, is it just okay? (lol)
Fujiwara: — I guess so but I’d prefer it to come with a proper ‘Like’. (lol)
Kōshima — But it comes quickly and then it’s over …
Fujiwara — There are moments where I feel like, “you just don’t get it do you?” (lol)
Kōshima — By the way, there was some interaction between you and Steve Jobs, right?
Fujiwara — I only met him twice though.
Kōshima — Because it’s unusual to have met him.
Fujiwara — Apple began as a subculture enterprise, but I realised it became a popular company when everyone in the world had an iPhone. Nevertheless, it is still great branding that subconsciously includes when Apple is cool. That is something that only Apple have accomplished. I said a while ago coolness is completely different from, “you do things big over there, because I do small things here!” Even if the creative job is interesting because there is no need whatsoever for approval from a major player, it is not easy to ascend to their level. While big things are brilliant, I want them to be brilliant in a different way.